Platform: PC
Developer: Carbine
Publisher: NCSoft
Role on Project: Content Designer

WildStar is a 2014 Free-to-Play MMO for PC.

Project Work

Content Designer

As a content designer on this project, I worked on developing quests, gameplay layouts, interfacing with the World Art team for propping and content needs, writing dialog, adding path quest puzzles, and developing documentation for six small zones of the main questing content.

Late in development, I joined the economy team for implementing the final form of the Imbuement quests for powering up items. I also worked with on the final implementation of the game's vendors.

In addition, I also spent time working on final bug support for three more zones of content, the two major hub cities for each zone, the Shiphand missions, and the daily quests for the Shade's Eve and the original implementation of the Winterfest dailies.

 

 

Official Trailer (2013)

 
 

Pre-Order Trailer (2014)

 

Celestion - Grimhold

(8 weeks full dev time)

Responsibilties:

  • Wrote original design documentation
  • Initial zone layout planning, handed to zone world artist to work from
  • Full combat spawning for Grimhold quests and ambient combat
  • Scripted, spawned, and wrote quest main storyline for Grimhold, zone sidequests
  • Original implementation of path missions

Celestion is an Exile starting zone that introduces the players to content related to the Aurin, Torine, and Mordesh races and enemy groups.  My contribution to the overall experience was the final episode of Celestion's third area, Grimhold.  Unlike many of the other zones I worked on during development, Celestion gave me the most freedom as a designer.  When handed the zone, I had an empty field where eventually city ruins would go and a few scraps of basic lore to construct a storyline around.  Working with the world artist who would eventually build a level, I pulled out my paper map and got to do my only instance of true level design during the development.  I did the initial concept designs for a quarantined city,  intended to create a circular path to mimic the designs for sectored off city areas that were already in use for Thayd, the Exile hub city. Knowing exactly what quest gameplay I intended for the space, I planned out an area where the player would start in a base camp for Mordesh Reaper containment ops (i.e. the quest hub), and then slowly ascend upstairs into a city infested by zombies, moving deeper into ruins that circled around the space to allow the player plenty of variety for planting bombs and finding bosses, and finally arriving at the last stand of the Chernabog team.  A few combat waves later and the player would hop onto a bike and ride their way to safety as Grimhold turned into a sea of fire.

After handing the level off to a polish team and moving on to Ellevar, Celestion received an additional mechanic grafted on to my original content of a hazard suit system, adding additional tension to an already eerie zone.

I also wrote the original storyline for the quests, with the collaboration of the narrative team.  I even got to name it "Grimhold", something that makes the entire area especially close to my heart.  Later iterations on dialog by our talented narrative staff produced the final dialog in keeping with the narrative voice of the game as a whole, though I'm happy to say that many of my writing remains intact and all of my plot beats stayed unaltered.  Helping to shape the earliest encounter the player has with the Mordesh as a race was something I am proud of, especially given that it involved a tragic zombie apocalypse that ended up forming a strong mental image for our title.  The final bike ride out of the exploding city was called out in IGN's 8.7 review of WildStar as one of its "standout quests" that "flesh[ed] out the traditional MMO fare with a tinge of WildStar’s clever personality."

 

 

Full playthrough of the entire quest chain.

 

Celestion Photo Gallery

Malgrave

(10 weeks full dev time - 5 weeks for tract 1, 5 weeks for tract 2)

Responsibilties:

Tract 1:

  • Full open world combat spawning for the town of Gravestone, the desert around the Kohra Crash Site, Shinysand Beach, the Wreck of the Novus, the Blasted Wasteland, Chittering Reach
  • Initial implemention of quest main storyline for Gravestone (duplicated quests for both factions)
  • Initial implementation of quest side storylines supporting Shinysand Oasis content
  • Initial explorer path mission content pass
  • Flavor and polish pass on Shinysand Oasis, Redsand Station

Tract 2:

  • Full open world combat spawning for Flamedancer Enclave, Flamedancer Commune, Flamedancer Mainframe, Sandstinger Wastes, Exo-Lab X-C42
  • Initial implementation of major game storyline "The Cult of the Cube", 9 quests per faction
  • Worked with narrative team to construct storyline in line with major game plot points
  • Worked with Cinematics team to concept a major cutscene for the end of the quest line
  • Initial implementation of quest side storylines supporting Flamedancer and Area 77 content.
  • Initial explorer path mission content pass
  • Flavor and polish pass on Area 77

Malgrave started out as experiment on how quickly the design teams could construct a full, shippable zone.  Content design normally operated under an 8 week milestone with full freedom past the documentation stage, but a need for greater efficiency later in develop led to the decision to take my team and attempt to split the normal milestone into two "mini milestones."  Our team lead worked with the content department lead to determine the content of quests ahead of time, and the rest of the team worked within those guidelines to develop simpler content in that window.

This experiment was mostly successful, as the documentation period was already done and a tight schedule derived ahead of time.  Even with much of the content planned ahead of time, I worked within the guidelines to add my own flavor and spice, using the restrictions as a motivation to innovate further.  The biggest highlight of the first tract was the ghost town of Gravestone, filled with gun-toting ghost bandits and culminating in a boss fight with the man that gunned them all down.  Every quest led the player deeper into Gravestone, giving them new fights and unique encounters along the way.  By the end, the player had the sensation of acting out a classic Western... in space, with ghosts.

Going into Tract 2, it was decided that four weeks was plenty of time for initial implementation but not enough time for polish, and an extra "transition" week took place before we moved straight into another aggressive mini milestone.  My content covered the ending of a long-running plotline throughout Wildstar's main lore, that of Artemis Zin and her hunt for a relic known as the Elder Cube.  While the quest line was very targeted, it needed to cover a massive amount of playable space, winding the player through the desert, through mechanical ruins, up a cliffside village, and finally inside a secret underground lab.  Due to the importance of the plotline, I also worked carefully with the Narrative team to ensure we hit every important beat.  I later worked with a cinematics team member to concept the storyline for a cutscene intended to display at the end of the quest line.  This content led to slight differences across the Dominion and Exile storylines, though the gameplay remained identical.

In both tracts, I also took on the task of fleshing out the wide desert spaces with sidequests.  In the southern half of Malgrave, Shinysand Beach in particular contained a series of quests taking the player inside of a partially submerged crashed ship where they did battle with a rogue AI while hunting for treasure.  The Northern half's sidequests largely supported the main storyline, further fleshing out the Cult of the Cube, the Pell obsessed with worshipping the same Eldan Relic the player pursues.

Explorer content in the zone took advantage of the many high spires, mesas, and cliffs of Malgrave to give the Explorer path players plenty of attractive vistas to puzzle over how to climb.  The use of tornados as bounce mechanics required more skills jumps than in Wilderrun due to the higher level of skill expected for a player of this level range.

Tract 1 Photo Gallery

Tract 2 Photo Gallery

Wilderrun

(14 weeks full dev time - 8 weeks for tract 1, 6 weeks for tract 2)

Responsibilties:

Tract 1:

  • Wrote original design documentation
  • Full combat spawning for Pell content in Ancient Crash Site, Wildfall Commune
  • 10 quest main storyline for Pell content scripted, spawned, and wrote initial text (split as 5 unique quests for Exile version, 5 unique quests for Dominion version)
  • 3 quest side storyline for Torine quest hub content
  • Initial implementation of Torine sidequests in Feralclaw Cliffs, Bladesworn Caverns, Torine quest hub
  • Original implementation of exploration path missions and jump puzzles
  • Jumpshroom platforming puzzles rigging around the Wildfall Commune and Ancient Crash Site

Tract 2:

  • Full combat spawning for Luminai Hybridization Complex, Strange Glade, Devastation Ridge
  • Initial implementation of quest main storyline for Strange Glade (duplicated quests for both factions)
  • Initial implementation of quest side storyline  for Devastation Ridge
  • Initial explorer path mission content pass

The massive jungles of Wilderrun took place over two very different portions of development, using two different styles of production.  Tract 1 (the first half of the zone) took place over the original 8 week time schedule, with more freedom to create quests and content around a general theme as long as we worked with world art.  In particular, Wilderrun's first big landmark is a massive crashed ship that immediately draws the player's eye.  I claimed the content at once and set to work crafting multiple puzzles that allowed the player to climb up into the trees and make use of our zone mechanic of bounce pad mushrooms to give them height.  One of Wildstar's more talked about selling points was its more action oriented gameplay, and the twisting trees and abandoned ruins of Wilderrun provided an opportunity to highlight this.  As per development at the time, I wrote the original design documentation and contributed to the overall storyline of the zone while working with the narrative team to ensure the plot beats met with overall Wildstar lore.  Both tracts of Wilderrun contained major plot points for the story, so clear and regular communication was necessary to ensure the design supported both normal gameplay needs and the overall game's myth arc.

The second portion of the zone, performed later in development, used a more streamlined process.  The quests were designed ahead of time by the team lead and our lead designer, with implementation handed off to the rest of the content designers on the team.  I handled the original implementation of the Luminai Hybridization quests which eventually revealed several major story points for the game as a whole.  While the quests were heavily reworked for launch after I left for the economy team, the overall structure of the episode remains the same.

Wilderrun Photo Gallery

Ellevar

(8 weeks full dev time- Tract 3)

Responsibilties:

Tract 1:

  • Wrote original design documentation
  • Original combat spawning for Mordesh cavern (cut), Mordesh camps, Darkspire Woods
  • Original implementation of 6 quest main storyline for Dominion players
  • Original implementation of sidequests through the Darkspire Woods, Vigilant Heart outpost
  • Original implementation of path missions

This portion of Ellevar dealt with Dominion soldiers and wildlife becoming poisoned by an unknown toxin.  Diving into the woods and fighting off infected wildlife reveals the Mordesh are conducting unethical experiments outside of the Exile's prying eyes.  The player must defeat Viralist Zarkin and her Black Hoods to put an end to their evil.

Ellevar changed rather heavily during development.  I was responsible for the first pass on zone content in this portion, and while many of the quests were retained, the original zone also contained a portion in which the player was briefly captured by the Mordesh and held prisoner.  While the prototype gave the player the feeling of being a prisoner without actually impeding their ability to progress through the game, later issues with the tech led to a simplification of the final storyline.  An additional cavern filled with Spiders and Mordesh was also cut as part of the streamlining process, moving the final confrontation with Viralist Zarkin into the Mordesh's camp.

Quests related to the Vigilant Heart hub remained the same throughout development, including the player using bombs to blow up Dagun (wolves), using a holographic oxen to lure out a mighty beast, rescuing scouts from a forest covered in Spiders, and finding ways to heal the sick soldiers that were injured as part of the main storyline.

Ellevar Photo Gallery